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Celeste's Core and Farewell Were a Mistake

Celeste's Core and Farewell Were a Mistake

Disclaimer: I mention the end of both the base game (The Summit) and the bonus DLC (Farewell), so this is your spoiler warning if you want to know what happens narratively at the end of both after you reach the summit in your own playthrough.

Recently, I decided to revisit and reclimb Celeste, everyone's favourite tear-inducing precision platformer. After finally going through B- and C-Sides and finishing Core (Chapter 8) and Farewell (Chapter 9), I've managed to find myself with over 50 hours of playtime (with hopefully more to come in the future) and a cute little blue ribbon on my Steam to indicate I finished the game 100%.

The entire journey of Celeste is something that I am incredibly fond of, and the game singlehandedly makes it to one of my top favourite titles of all time (a title I'm trying to be more conservative about). Even years ago, when I first played the game and finished climbing the mountain, I felt almost tearful joy and exhilaration out the other side, and it wasn't just because I wasn't going to die more times (a statement that would become a lie later on).

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No, what makes Celeste so great is its underlying tones of mental health and overcoming. The symbolic nature of its gameplay ensures that you start at rock bottom both narratively and gameplay-wise as you set off on an adventure that will take you thousands upon thousands of deaths. And somehow, out the other side, you'll be proud of your four-digit counter.

There are few things in gaming I've loved more than the fan-fare feeling of making a reach for the summit and seeing a counter as the developers slowly urge you and cheer you on in the form of small checkpoints. Each new challenge presented is a new undertaking that you know you can pass because you've done it before, and you can do it again — a familiar feeling of passing previous Chapters. And with each new slide conquered, you get a new checkpoint that counts down to your success.

The feeling of joy of passing each one is goosebump-inducing, as reaching single-digit checkpoints is almost as cathartic as reaching the peak itself and finally knowing — you finished your journey. Both in terms of narrative and gameplay, this high point of the experience is not replicated in many other games, and knowing that you made it despite everything getting in your way serves to boost your confidence.

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Even the ending, after finishing The Summit and jumping into the Epilogue, you reach a place of peace and joy. Madeline and Badeline are getting along, Theo is there, Granny, even Mr. Oshiro makes an appearance, and everyone eats from the Strawberries you got on your journey. It's a culmination that is heartwarming, seeing the good and bad sides of Madeline getting along and her conquering everything and becoming empowered by the mountain.

There are very few endings I would say are "perfect", and Celeste achieved that by amalgamating its narrative with themes of mental health and overcoming that helped make the game feel closer to home. Even reaching the narrative end, I felt better for it, even if I hadn't actually climbed the mountain myself — a happy ending with the picture of everyone together and eating away their worries.

This all stops with the final two Chapters of the game, which I feel really boggle down the experience — Core and Farewell. Both of these felt like extra chapters added and smacked into the title without rhyme or reason, and it breaks the ending of the game by taking you to "about a year later". The Core, in terms of gameplay, takes away your capability to double dash (invalidating your relationship with Badeline) and introduces new mechanics that are great but otherwise a bit boring in comparison to everything else presented earlier.

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The biggest problem I had, however, was with the Farewell chapter, which was added as a free DLC to the game. In this Chapter, you are faced with the death of Granny after all that you've faced. The Chapter starts with you reaching the peak that you find in Chapter 7 C-Side, and her turning into a grave in a jarring way as you face Madeline's struggles and incapability to come to terms with her passing.

Gameplay-wise, I felt that Farewell also invalidates a lot of your progress made with coming to team up with Badeline by taking away your second dash and forcing you to face this as Madeline once again. While I genuinely enjoyed having to use various tricks commonly used in speedrunning that I felt I was "too bad" to do, and the game pushed me to my limit once again, Farewell invalidated the climb and the entirety of the base game up to The Summit.

Narratively, it doesn't make sense to invalidate your entire base game and make the protagonist face another problem. Although it can be synonymous with how mental health struggles aren't something that you conquer once and complete, the inclusion of death and grief — despite being in-brand with the game's overall theme — felt out of place once you finally reached the peak.

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In fact, the entirety of Farewell feels like it deviates from the original meaning and purpose of Celeste — overcoming and conquering. Instead, the approach feels more like an attempt to make you face harder and harder challenges, forsaking something that has perfectly fused its narrative with its gameplay elements and opting to see how hard and ludicrous these challenges could become.

The level design is good in Farewell, but its implications with its existence just feel out of place in the game's narrative and completion. Invalidating the climb up to The Summit and instead opting to make a "new" ending felt wrong because it took away the best part of Celeste: its gratifying culmination. The Summit and Epilogue feel invalidated in both gameplay and narrative elements because of the way Madeline and Badeline act with each other, because of the deactivation of the double dash we worked so hard to get, and because after all of it, there was one more mountain we had to climb. 

Artura Dawn

Artura Dawn

Staff Writer

Writes in her sleep, can you tell?

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